Requiem of the Rose King, Vol. 4

Requiem of the Rose King Volume 4 by Aya Kanno

This series continues to impress me, as with each volume Kanno capably delivers a larger cast of characters and more intricate plots centered around the succession to the English throne. While many of the earlier volumes served to establish the motivations of many of the characters, this volume moved into more political plotting, especially as the Earl of Warwick decides to play kingmaker.

I found myself struck by all the ways that Kanno’s art signals character in elegant ways. Richard has a vision of his father as an avenging angel with dark wings, and the swooping black feathers bordering the panels serve to show how isolated Richard is in his inner world. Warwick is often drawn with areas of his face shown in stark shadow, which suits his manipulative personality.

This volume focuses on the fall of Edward, his manipulative wife, and the possible rise of middle brother George. Richard is still an object of desire to Edward, who willingly travels to meet Anne to explore a possible engagement once he knows that Richard is also visiting. For a brief time Richard is able to deepen his friendship with Anne, and he finds some solace in a new friend who lets him be completely himself. This being a tragedy, Richard’s brief period of peace is quickly destroyed, and he has to head back into battle again where he thinks he’s going to find a different kind of escape.

As Warwick’s plots fall into place, Buckingham is determined to provide a different king for the nation and goes off in search of Richard. There are too many kings and would-be kings wandering around England! But it is clear that while they all may be trying to gain the throne, so much of the real power is in the hands of the nobles trying to manipulate all the political uncertainty.

Requiem of the Rose King continues to be a favorite series. The art is absolutely top notch, and the combination of Richard’s surreal visions and complicated inner life against the backdrop of the political struggles for the English crown makes it incredibly compelling.

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Requiem of the Rose King, Vol 3

Requiem of the Rose King Volume 3 by Aya Kanno

This manga just keeps getting better and better as Kanno adds even more royal intrigue to her unique story of Richard III and the Wars of the Roses.

The second volume closed with Richard embodying a demonic spirit of vengeance when he discovered that his father was killed. The third volume opens with Richard’s older brother Edward, the new king, making questionable decisions about women. Edward is utterly captivated by the widow Elizabeth Woodville, who secretly detests the House of York. She maintains Edward’s interest by continually refusing him until he is desperate enough to make her his queen, going against the other alliances his court is arranging for him. Richard proves to be an unenthusiastic ally in Edward’s courtship, going along with his brother on hunting trips to provide cover for Edward’s visits to Elizabeth. When Edward is staying in a hunting cabin, he again meets the wayward Lancaster King Henry. Richard and Henry are drawn to each other, without fully knowing who each other are.

Henry’s dreamy outlook on life has made him one of the few people who relates to Richard as just Richard, without the “demon child” legend that has poisoned everyone against him. But Henry’s distance from his own family ensures that when his son Edward discovers the men together, his jealousy over his father’s relationship with Richard looks like it is going to have horrible consequences.

Kanno’s art continues to be both dark and lavish, fitting the settings and themes of this tragic story excellently. I’m always in awe of her facility with facial expressions and how it contributes so well to character development. Just a couple panels of Elizabeth Woodville’s gleefully staring eyes as she contemplates her plans for Edward establish that she’s up to no good. Henry’s abstracted expression show him to not fully live in the world, while Richard’s sensitivity and hesitancy in trusting Henry is clearly portrayed. This continues to be such a standout title in Viz’s current publishing lineup.

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Requiem of the Rose King Vol 2

Requiem of the Rose King Volume 2 by Aya Kanno

This has been one of the manga series that I’ve been anticipating very impatiently, I enjoyed the first volume very much, and was eager to see how the story would develop in the second volume. Kanno is still in the initial stages of developing the story, but this volume provides more insight into the psychological pressures afflicting the people who rule during the Wars of the Roses.

If Richard didn’t have enough to deal with in the first volume, his situation grows even more unbearable when his beloved father is captured by the House of Lancaster and tortured horribly. Richard is left behind by his family’s army, left alone to deal with the torment of knowing his father has been captured. He crosses a line when he realizes that murder is the only way for him to gain the disguise and weapons he needs to journey behind enemy lines. Richard encounters Henry again when he’s struggling with the emotional aftermath of his actions. While Richard deals with his problems by enduring horrible visions and taking violent action, Henry’s passivity and desire to escape his responsibilities serves as a strong contrast to Richard’s more decisive nature. While Richard is clearly heading down a path of madness and despair, it also seems like his actions are going to have a strong impact on the world around him. Henry just wants to withdraw and allow his insane wife Margaret to make all his decisions for him.

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When Richard discovers his father’s fate, Kanno’s paneling decisions underscore the emotional impact. Richard’s face is shown with a blank expression with his eyes hidden to underscore the shock he initially feels, followed by single panels showing his whole face, zooming in on his surprised eyes and clenched mouth as he confronts his father’s death. Richard begins a transformation into the monster that people have labeled him as before, as he’s absolutely consumed by the need for vengeance. As the events later in the volume unfold, Richard is portrayed in a more and more stylized fashion, becoming a living embodiment of a curse and less like the tortured human the reader encountered in the first volume.

The emotional stakes have certainly been raised in this volume, and Kanno’s illustration style is really stretched way beyond what I expected from the author of Otomen. There’s certainly more and more tragedy ahead, but Kanno’s take on the story of Richard the Third is a fresh and incredibly interesting adaptation. The tragedy and emotional trauma feels entirely justified and in service to the plot Kanno is developing. If you haven’t checked out this series yet, now is a great time to jump on and read two volumes with no waiting.

Requiem of the Rose King, Vol. 1

Requiem of the Rose King, Vol. 1 by Aya Kanno

I really admire the way Kanno moves from genre to genre, coming up with unique stories each time, at least with her series that have been translated into English. Blank Slate and Otomen are utterly unlike each other, and now with Requiem of the Rose King there’s an entirely different series to enjoy.

Requiem of the Rose King is a retelling of the story of Richard III, which is a topic I tend to enjoy exploring, going way back to when I first read the classic mystery Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey as a young teenager. So I was really interested in seeing how Kanno was going to tackle this story. It opens with the childhood of young Richard during the Wars of the Roses. Richard is a favorite of his father, but his mother views him as a damaged child due to his physical abnormalities. The introduction to Richard is framed with a reference to Joan of Arc’s sin of dressing like a man. Richard is cloaked, roaming through the forest alone after his mother abandoned him. One of his eyes is more prominent than the other, but his face is entirely in shadow. As Richard’s mother sits back in the castle thinking about how evil her own son is, he’s shown being trapped by vines. Richard’s older siblings are integrated into their mother’s affections, but when Richard’s father goes off to fight the Lancasters, he loses his main source of love and affection.

Richard appears to be intersex, or at least having some feminine characteristics while being raised as a boy. Richard sees visions of Joan of Arc tormenting him. He’s determined to be the best son possible for his father. I wasn’t sure exactly which gender to use to refer to him, but since in the first volume Richard clearly identifies as male, I was just going with that for the sake of this review. Richard accidentally strikes up a friendship with young prince Henry. He also meets a girl named Anne Neville. While Richard experiences battle in this volume on the sidelines, the fear and danger that he’s exposed to being left behind are very real. His mother grows even more hostile throughout the volume, which I didn’t even think was possible given how she was introduced initially.

Kanno’s art is great in this volume, and it seems like the subject matter has given her more room to be experimental. Richard’s visions of Joan of Arc keep popping up to make the events he’s experiencing even more unsettling, and there seem to be shadows about to attack lurking in the woods and in castle corners. Close up of eyes are used for dramatic effect often, showing fear, anger, and mental instability. I feel like with this series and Black Rose Alice, Viz is being a bit more adventurous with some of their current manga that might appeal to shoujo readers. While I enjoy a good romance as much as anyone, I am really happy to get a bit more variety on my shelves.